Photo Gallery:
2012 Mazda3

Day 1

2012 Mazda3 GS-Sky
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From one 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine powered vehicle to another — this week I am behind the wheel of the new 2012 Mazda3 GS-Sky, the first Mazda available in North America with the company’s SkyActiv technology. Although my tester is not a hatchback, this car is a worthy competitor to the Subaru Impreza I drove last week: both are compact vehicles with similar engine specs and features.

Right off the bat, I noticed the price differential between the Mazda3 and the Subaru Impreza, with the Mazda coming out about $4,000 less, but being similarly equipped. In fact, my tester, a GS-Sky with luxury package, has a nearly-identical equipment list as the Impreza I drove last week, with the addition of power-adjustable leather seats, the deletion of automatic climate control and, of course, front-wheel drive.

2012 Mazda3 GS-Sky
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The transmission in my tester is the optional six-speed automatic (a $1,200 upgrade from the six-speed manual). The 2.0-litre engine offers 155 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque and uses gasoline direct injection (GDI).

It became immediately apparent to me that the Mazda has a much quieter ride and a more solid feel than the Impreza I drove last week. Other immediate impressions include a better stereo and a more attractive interior layout and design. One glaring omission is the trip computer that Mazda only offers in the GT model — odd, considering the Sky version is supposed to be the fuel-economy special, and one would think they would include the fuel consumption readout to encourage more efficient driving.

The luxury package adds fog lights, leather upholstery, eight-way power driver’s seat, leather-like sliding console cover and vinyl side door trim to the already well-appointed GS model, which includes modern must-haves like Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control and steering wheel mounted audio controls.

2012 Mazda3 GS-Sky
MSRP as tested (excluding destination): $22,590

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